Pike in no rush to change his ways

Alex Pike celebrates Gosport Borough's promotion via the play-offs to the Southern League premier division at the end of the 2011-12 season
Alex Pike celebrates Gosport Borough's promotion via the play-offs to the Southern League premier division at the end of the 2011-12 season
Gosport have taken a lift from Craig McAllister's leadership. Picture: Keith Woodland

Gosport encouraged ahead of Redditch trip

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Every chairman that I have ever worked with has told me at some point that I need to tone it down a bit. I have ignored every single one of them.’

In non-league circles, it’s fair to suggest that Alex Pike is a bit of a character.

And the outspoken Gosport Borough manager is expected to ruffle a few feathers in the Blue Square Bet South next season after leading his club to back-to-back promotions – even if that means upsetting the chairman on occasions.

Pike is not your typical modern-day coach, who is seemingly afraid to speak a word out of line.

Other football managers – even in the non-league game – have been known to trot out banal nonsense in their post-match interviews.

They will protect their players, make excuses for them or suggest they haven’t seen an incident when it happened 10 yards in front of them.

They prefer to keep things in house and avoid information leaks.

But 52-year-old Pike, who guided his side to Southern League premier division play-off final victory over Hemel Hempstead via extra-time and penalties last month, is from the old school.

And he doesn’t really care what comes out as long as the club’s profile is enhanced along the way.

He’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

While some might consider him as an annoying motor mouth with an inflated ego, he can certainly back up those thoughts with results on the pitch.

Sometimes it’s purely to get a reaction by poking a stick at a rival manager to see if he can gain the upper hand.

At other times, it’s directed at his own players to test their character or see if he can extract that extra bit of performance from them.

Sometimes, it’s just for a laugh and a wind-up.

But the former policeman makes no apology for his style.

And Pike has vowed not to change.

‘I’ve been described as Marmite – you either love me or hate me – because I will speak my mind,’ he said.

‘I always say to my players “if you don’t want a truthful answer to a question, don’t ask me the question”.

‘But I’ve always been the same to the press or anyone. They are my opinions and I firmly believe in them.

‘That doesn’t mean to say they are always right, though!

‘I heard someone the other day remark that I thought I was the Jose Mourinho of non-league football.

‘But I’ve been doing it long before him.

‘I think it’s a problem in football that there just aren’t as many characters in the game any more.

‘The FA are starting to get their way. They want robots throughout the game.

‘Well, that’s not going to happen with me.

‘If I’m a dinosaur and people regard me as outdated, then fine.

‘But I get clubs promoted and I win trophies. If my style wasn’t winning matches, I might change it.

‘Yes, I’ve had a few spats with managers or other people in non-league football. It happens from time to time.

‘You don’t get on with everyone and not everyone gets on with me – fair enough.

‘There is one well-known non-league figure in our area who shall remain nameless but he’s an absolute prat.

‘He probably thinks the same about me.

‘So I might make a few enemies next season, but I haven’t got into football to make friends.’

After starting his managerial career during his time in Dorset Police, Pike soon discovered he had a knack for it and became the youngest manager to win the FA Vase – aged just 31.

He recalled: ‘I played for Dorset Police. The team wasn’t run the way it should have been so we went to see the chief constable to set up a reserve side in 1981 to run it ourselves.

‘That year, I won everything.

‘Then I started managing a team in the Bournemouth league and won every division.

‘A Dorset League side, Holt United, came in and asked me to be manager. Then they finished runners-up having never done anything before.

‘Then Wimborne Town wanted me to be the manager, but I didn’t feel I was ready so I took Nick Jennings (former Pompey player) with me.

‘After two years, I took over as manager.

‘In my first season, we won the league, the Dorset Senior Cup and the FA Vase.

‘That wasn’t too bad for someone who didn’t know anything about football.

‘Others are coaches but I can identify players. I can watch a game and see players who can do a job at different non-league levels.

‘I suppose I’ve been a good talker and that helps when you are trying to sell the club or sell yourself to get players to play for you as well.’

A serious car accident in 1991 – when he didn’t know if he would walk again – gave the Privett Park boss some perspective, but also ended his career in the police.

He said: ‘I was in a serious crime squad but had a car accident and spent three weeks in hospital.

‘The police tried to look after me for a year and then I was invalided out.

‘I smashed my back up. I couldn’t walk for a week and a half and had no feeling in my legs.

‘I remember the doctor sitting on the end of my bed.

‘He told me “until the swelling goes down, we don’t know what damage you’ve done to your spinal column and you might never walk again”.

‘I replied: “At least I might be able to enter the Paralympics!”

‘He was a bit gobsmacked and said nobody had ever said that to him before.’

But despite not playing the game to any great level, Pike has proven he can build winning teams.

And he still has plenty of ambition himself – even to the point of wanting to manage in the Football League.

He said: ‘I always say to my players that they should aim to play at the highest possible level they can.

‘Why should I be any different?

‘I’ve said before that I have made a career in football out of knowing absolutely nothing.

‘But with three promotions – two of them back-to-back – people might start believing I might know a thing or two.

‘Over 30 years of managing clubs, I think I have been successful.

‘Who knows what might happen in the future?

‘But I haven’t had the call from the Premier League just yet.’